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Accordion Revolution: A People’s History of the Accordion in North America from the Industrial Revolution to Rock and Roll

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Accordion Revolution is about more than an instrument: it’s a living, breathing restoration of the squeezebox to its rightful place at the roots of North America’s popular music.

Before the dawn of rock ’n’ roll, the accordion ranked among North America’s most popular instruments. Arriving in the arms of immigrants, nearly every ethnicity on the continent played the squeezebox: Irish, Scottish, French, German, Eastern European, Latino, Jewish. The instrument packed barn dances, jazz clubs, and recital halls, and was heard in norteño groups on the Mexican frontier; Creole string bands in New Orleans, and Inuit square dances above the Arctic Circle. Portable, cheap, and loud, accordions became the soundtrack for modernity as the music industry exploited them on records, radio, film, and television.

Millions of people played accordions until a disastrous combination of economics, demographics, and electronic instruments nearly erased them from mainstream culture. Emerging from exile with a new generation of followers, this book invites beginner or seasoned accordionists and music fans in general to rediscover a forgotten legion of little-known artists. With an eye for colorful characters and a sharp sense of humor, accordion historian Bruce Triggs uncovers the hidden back-story of the squeezebox in everyone’s closet.

432 pages, Paperback

Published June 28, 2019

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About the author

Bruce Triggs

2 books1 follower
Bruce Triggs spent ten years living with the homeless at the radical Catholic Worker community in Tacoma, Washington. While there he broke his first squeeze-box at the 1999 WTO demonstrations in Seattle.

For over a decade he has hosted the Accordion Noir radio program in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was in on the ground floor at the annual Accordion Noir Festival.

After meeting many fabulous accordion players, Bruce decided to write about the instrument rather than learn to play it. He now lives alone in a bachelor pad surrounded by broken accordions. (These things may be related.) Amidst all this he has co-parented delightful and talented twins with their queer moms, an extended family, and their cranky rescue cat.

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
May 31, 2020
This is a well written, funny and deeply resourced book. It is a fantastic read for anyone interested in accordions but it is also a great read for anyone. I have made it a practice to google and listen to the artists chronicled while reading each section. It has been an epic journey of discovery of amazing artistry and history. The day that I came upon the section on Antonio Tanguma and just about fell on the floor with delight as I watched a youtube featuring him fling his accordion in a circle while playing. It was an impressive level of accordion stage prowess and an impressive piece of showmanship that I previously thought was limited to rock guitarists. The discoveries that I made while reading this book have been invaluable to me on many levels. Accordion Revolution has set the bar high as a chronicle of the multifaceted and brilliant history of accordion music in North America.
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13 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2021
I loved this book. Many credit Churchill with the saying “History is written by the victors.” What reaches our eyes and ears in historical accounts becomes the shape of the past, and so often information (and truth) is omitted in the name of such things as convenience, shame, fear and greed. Bruce Triggs indicates early on in the book the impossibility of including every significant contribution to North American squeezebox history but, in reading the 422-page work, it’s obvious that he took great measures to see that Accordion Revolution would rise above our societal habit of histories that overlook commonly marginalized contributors to culture and innovation. Triggs calls out and counters this phenomenon without fanfare or self-righteousness and includes a wide yet finely tuned spectrum of information appropriate to the book’s title while acknowledging the limits of its scope. He writes with an infectious adoration of the instrument as well as a keen humor right to most human histories but too often lost to formality. The book is a deft weaving of information on technological and cultural innovation through which we celebrate and lament the victories and defeats of the instrument and its diverse community, from the accordion’s dawning, its golden age, its walk through roots music and rock, its exile, and its re-emergence today. A lovely and illuminating read.
149 reviews2 followers
February 28, 2020
“Accordion Revolution” tells the story of the free reed family of instruments in North America. This amazing and unappreciated tale should interest music fans everywhere, especially if you want to know who played what, and what bands sounded like in the days before sound amplification. Who knew that John Lennon played the accordion before he picked up the guitar?
The accordion lives on in ethnic music. Its sound is adored by the cognoscenti. “Accordion Revolution” is an invaluable reference. The author obviously assembled a library of obscure accordion music performances while conducting his research. If only there were an MP3-file musical companion to the book!
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1 review
July 13, 2021
I just finished reading this amazing book. As an accordion player and music fan, I really felt this book gave a new perspective on both the history of North American music and the history of the accordion that I could never find! I especially loved the focus on women in accordion and music history and reminding us that so much important music happens outside of the music industry, in people's homes and kitchens with whatever skills they have! Thank you so much for writing this book and sharing your deep knowledge and love of the squeeze box with the world!
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